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best of me, because their boat was the handsomer. So I bought the Bright Emerald for $26,000, and ran her as a night boat to Albany. More than that, a little later that same year I bought the Rochester paid $50,000 for her. The Hudson River Association hit back by buying the Swallow; and now the fight was on. We raced each other up and down the river, trying to beat the other fellow in rates, and boasting that each had the swiftest boat. Finally, it came to a race between the two. Both boats started at four o'clock one afternoon, from the dock near to the ferry which ran to Jersey City. This was in 1836. Up the river they ran, nip and tuck. The Swallow was so anxious to win that she speeded her engine beyond what it was built for. She got a little in the lead, but couldn't hold out. Just below Hudson her engine broke down. She had to stop a few minutes for repairs. This gave the Rochester the lead. By the time the Swallow got under headway once more, my boat was so far in front that she couldn't overtake us. At Van Wies Point, a hundred and forty miles from New York, the race ended. My Rochester had won. This finished the fight. I had got the fare down so low that the Hudson River Association, weakened as they were by that loss of $8,000 (which was just so much additional ammunition in my own magazine), gave in. I bought them out. )
And whereas the fare had been so low until then that I myself couldn't have stood it very much longer, now that I was in control, I put the rate to Albany back to $3, and made enough money to pay me for all I had lost in the fight.
Those were the days before the railroad. Since the Hudson is so wide and deep and slow a river, while both banks are rocky and high so as to make railroad engineering difficult, steamboat navigation between New York and Albany came many years before the railroad. Thus the traffic by water was large. Competition boats were springing up all the time, and we were everlastingly running each other. Steamboat rivalry was very high in those days. In making speed on our trips, we got so we didn't make full stops at the landings to let passengers off. When we would come near to a landing, we would
passengers who were to stop off in a rowboat and towed it behind the steamboat. Then the steamboat would veer in towards the dock and slacken her speed a little. This would permit the steersman in the rowboat to sheer his boat alongside the dock, and as she went past
passengers had to scramble out and onto the dock. Sometimes they landed on the dock, and sometimes in the water. One day, while
One day, while trying to make this kind of a landing at Poughkeepsie, several passengers were drowned. The Legislature then passed a law putting a stop to these landings "on the fly.” This craze for speed was bad, also, because it put the boilers under such pressure of steam that it wasn't always safe. In a close race engineers would tie down the safety valve, plug up the mercury pipe in the pressure gauge so the stuff wouldn't blow out, and then crowd on steam until the boiler plates would bulge out into bumps as big as a saucepan; and the boiler would be weaker for the remainder of its life. Besides that, the pilots would take a hand, and in racing with a rival boat would sometimes in a narrow place in the river crowd the other boat onto the shoals or against a barge.
Rate-cutting was so sharp that I had to try all kinds of schemes and dodges to keep my end up. A good scheme, I found, was to make different rates for alternate nights — fifty cents for one night,
, and $1.50 for the next night. This worked well. For people, hearing tell of the lower rates, would forget on which night the lower rate was given, and when they got to the wharf all packed up and ready to travel, were usually willing to pay the extra rate rather than go back and wait over another day. Sometimes we carried people from New York to Albany for two shillings. And one time, when a rival boat, the Wave, started up, our boats carried passengers free. The Wave wasn't very heavily financed. She lasted just three days. Sometimes we would even pay passengers a shilling to take our boat rather than the boat of the opposition line. But this wasn't so wasteful as it might seem, because after you've got a passenger aboard your boat and out in the middle of the river, he's at your mercy. For the first hour or two he thinks he's getting off fine. But by and by he gets hungry; besides, night is coming on, and he wants a place to sleep. Then we would stick on enough extra for meals and sleeping privilege, not only to make up what we had paid him for taking our boat, but also to pay us a profit besides.
Since I was now the chief owner of the big line of steamboats on the river, I was powerful, and new competitors didn't have much chance. I felt that competition had to be
hand. There was a man by the name of Hancox. He put on a small boat in opposition to our regular line. He called it the Napoleon. It was a poor boat. It didn't have much show, anyhow. But it wouldn't do to take any chances. His New York pier was further down than ours. So one morning in June our boat, the DeWitt Clinton, was waiting at her dock working her engines full stroke. When the Napoleon was a short distance from the lower side of the dock, the hawsers of the DeWitt Clinton were cut with a sharp axe. out under a full head of steam and hit the Napoleon just forward of the wheel. You'd have thought it would have put that miserable little boat out of commission altogether. It didn't succeed as completely as that. But it careened her over until her
guard was under water, and gave her passengers a scare that they didn't forget for a long time.
But there were still other ways of getting around a competitor; and we left no stone unturned. Hancox, who wasn't man enough to continue the fight on a business plane, began to squeal. He put out an advertisement like this:
“It is the first time in my life that I have been forced to appeal directly to the public; but after having been persecuted as I have been for the last three days by one of the greatest monopolies of this country, my duty towards my family, as I owe them a support, makes it necessary that I should inform the public of my situation.
“I purchased the steamboat Napoleon last winter, and associated with myself E. C. Corwin, and James Cochrane, who became equal partners with me in the boat, and the Articles of Co-partnership were drawn in such a manner that the boat was to run to Albany and nowhere else. Recently, the monopoly, after ascertaining that I was determined not to remove the boat from this route has made extravagant offers, made in such a way that I was to be left alone; and consequently, as my means are small, I must, without doubt, be ruined and my family beggared. I now simply appeal to my friends to assist me in supporting the Napoleon; for as long as she does not lose, no money that can be provided will prevent me from running.